Minister “must question” NPHET’s decision- O'Reily

Continuing restrictions in the school transport system will see up to 600 pupils in this region miss out access to school buses.

The situation pupils find themselves in came to light as Bus Éireann confirmed to Aontú councillor, Sarah O’Reilly, that 600 students in counties Cavan, Monaghan and Louth will not get bus tickets this year. The Cavan County Council member criticised Education Minister, Norma Foley for “the mess that is the lack of capacity in the post primary school transport system”.

Cllr O’Reilly said the situation should have been anticipated as Public Health advice dictates a reduction in bus capacity by 50% on last year: “If you add the current lack of private providers left in the market due to its collapse, then alarm bells should have been sounding in the Department of Education,” she said of the situation.

The Aontú representative said the situation reflects poorly on the minister: “A miscalculated blunder or lack of forward planning of this magnitude is wholly unacceptable, leaving hundreds of families totally stranded.

“I hope that the Minister has advocated on behalf of students and their families to NPHET for a common sense increase in bus capacity and if she is not successful, she must take charge herself,” Cllr O'Reilly demanded.

She derided the lack of information: “It's difficult for parents to understand why 100% capacity on post primary transport was acceptable last year, yet it is not acceptable this year. Evidence to date shows that most children aged 12 to 17 who get COVID-19 have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all The risk of a child being hospitalised because of COVID-19 is low, and the risk of any child needing intensive care treatment is extremely rare”.

Cllr O'Reilly believes there is a simple solution to the problem: “The Minister must question the reasoning for NPHET’s decision and demand the evidence and data that back it up. The government or NPHET (whoever is in charge) must immediately resume full capacity on post primary school buses without delay in order to give peace of mind to suffering families,” she concluded.